Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.

Livingstone, Mary

South Africa

Mary Livingstone was the oldest child of Robert Moffat and wife of David Livingstone. Born at Griqua Town, South Africa she grew up speaking Tswana more fluently than English. She spent five years at Salem School in the eastern Cape Colony followed by some teacher training at Cape Town. From 1839 to 1843 she was in Britain with her parents and disliked the life there intensely. From 1843 she taught happily in the school at Kuruman in Griqualand, and then in 1845 she married David Livingstone. She and their children accompanied him on his two great treks to the north in 1850 and again in 1851. Although she loved this life as much as her husband did, her parents were appalled, and when David decided to explore the Zambezi Valley everyone insisted that she not go. There followed four desperately unhappy years in Britain which she still found alien. When David returned to Britain in 1856 she spent two very happy years with him, though still disliking life in Europe intensely. She insisted on joining her husband on the next Zambezi expedition and in 1861 she sailed for her beloved Africa. On April 27, 1862, she died in David’s arms at Shupanga on the Zambezi.

Andrew C. Ross


Edna Healey, Wives of Fame (1986) contains the only serious attempt at a life of Mary Livingstone.

Timothy Holmes, Journey to Livingstone (1993) contains much information and some sympathetic insights.

This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.